There isn't much not to like about streaming video. Subscribe to Netflix or Amazon Prime, and you can choose from thousands of film and TV titles with the press of a button. No VHS tapes to get chewed up by a tape player, no DVDs to clutter the living room or collect dust and scratches. Whole seasons of TV series ready for binge viewing for fans with the addictive habits of chain smokers. This is entertainment technology at its best.
Or is it? Film historians and film buffs would beg to differ. For them, the rapidity with which streaming has supplanted discs and tape as a viewing mode is a bug, not a feature. As the mass audience gravitates toward the big streaming services, those services have more incentive to focus their streaming inventory on recent and self-produced titles.
"That crowds out older films," says David Bordwell, a film historian at the University of Wisconsin. "They're going to have less and less motive to highlight the classics in their catalogs." That threatens the economics of film history. "How many restorations of old films will there be?" he asks. "How many foreign titles?"